Cel­e­brat­ing the bold ... and the ute-iful

Aussie in­ven­tions hit the road, writes Karla Pin­cott

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Top Gear -

WHEN you think about Aussie car in­ven­tions, the first one that comes to mind, of course, is the ute — a body shape so handy it’s now spread to many other coun­tries.

But there are those who say Aus­tralia can also claim a far more wide­spread in­ven­tion: the car ra­dio.

While a patent was given for a de­sign in the US in 1925, a year ear­lier Kellys Mo­tors in Liver­pool, New South Wales, had fit­ted one to a Sum­mit car — a ve­hi­cle of its own de­sign built from US parts.

It was part of the Sum­mit’s en­vi­able equip­ment list that in­cluded front and rear hand-op­er­ated wind­screen wipers, a clock and a cigar lighter.

The in­stal­la­tion was prob­a­bly quickly fol­lowed by the first hoon com­plaint as the driver doof-doofed around the streets to the sounds of Alexan­der’s Rag­time Band.

In 1972 Perth en­gi­neer Ralph Sarich in­vented the Or­bital en­gine, with a tri­an­gu­lar pis­ton cre­at­ing five com­bus­tion cham­bers in­side a sin­gle cylin­der. It is smaller, lighter and more ef­fi­cient than nor­mal en­gines, but seal­ing and over­heat­ing is­sues have limited its use.

Many cars owe their good steer­ing ‘feel’ to the vari­able ra­tio rack and pin­ion steer­ing sys­tem in­vented in 1971 by Arthur Bishop, while oth­ers have ben­e­fited from his de­sign of a ro­tary valve for power steer­ing. The baby safety cap­sule com­bin­ing a pro­tec­tive sys­tem and a re­mov­able bassinet was in­vented in 1984 by Rains­fords (mak­ers of the Safe-nSound child seat).

But it’s time to get back to the ul­ti­mate all-round Aussie icon: the ute. Sparked by a farmer writ­ing to Ford in 1932 to ask for ‘‘some­thing I can go in to church on Sun­day, and carry pigs to mar­ket on Mon­day’’, the first ute was un­veiled by Ford with an open back grafted on to a V8 Coupe.

It was a roar­ing suc­cess and went on to be copied widely around the world, mor­ph­ing into both work­horse and show pony.

It is the quin­tes­sen­tial, true-blue Aussie ve­hi­cle. And to this day, it re­mains one of the great­est Aussie in­ven­tions in any field.

World first: a Safe-n-Sound baby car seat un­der­goes tests in 1997.

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